British diplomats behaving badly in Israel

If the British government hopes to salvage any credibility as an 'honest broker' in the Middle East, it must rein in the Foreign office strongly and immediately

Time to rein them in, Mr Hague?
Hadar Sela
On 18 January 2012 11:19

The report makes a cursory reference to human rights abuses perpetrated by Palestinians on other Palestinians, but fails to make any serious attempt to tackle the well-documented abuses against women, religious minorities, homosexuals, trade unions and the press in areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.

Most significantly, this report turns a willfully blind eye to the human rights of Israelis. In 2011 alone 676 rockets or mortars were launched by terror factions in Gaza at the one million Israeli civilians living in southern Israel. A further one million Israelis live under the threat of Hizballah rockets stashed under the noses of UNIFIL peacekeepers in Lebanon.

Dozens of Israeli motorists have had rocks or fire-bombs thrown at their vehicles in almost daily incidents during the past year, sometimes with tragic results. Israeli civilians also suffered a variety of other terror attacks in 2011 and numerous attempts were made by Palestinian terror factions to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

However, none of the above apparently merits even so much as a mention as far as the Foreign Office is concerned. Wondering why that would be the case, I called the UK embassy in Tel Aviv and was told that it was the result of "a glitch". Unfortunately, that "glitch" did not prevent the dissemination of the report all over the internet and social media networks.

The embassy official urged me to read the FCO's 2010 report which she claimed does address the issue of Palestinian human rights violations against Israelis. In fact, the eleven page section on 'Israel & the OPT' contains one sole generalised paragraph on the subject of rocket attacks from Gaza, a couple of other cursory references and an additional paragraph on the subject of Gilad Shalit.

In answer to my question regarding the authorship of this latest report, I was informed that it was a joint project of the FCO in London and the British Consulate in Jerusalem. That did not come as much of a surprise as the incumbent British Consul General, Sir Vincent Fean, has often seen fit during his time in Jerusalem to engage in activities well beyond his job description.

Two points become very clear as a result of this latest report. One is that British diplomatic missions are clearly attempting to influence internal Israeli issues by means of 'monitoring' and 'lobbying', as described above. Beyond the fact that this is obviously a case of diplomatic bad manners, it carries with it a very unfortunate stench of colonial days, supposedly gone by.

The second point is that the FCO's decidedly selective concern for human rights is in fact nothing more than a fashionable fig-leaf for the promotion of a political agenda. That in turn raises questions regarding the reliability of similar reports concerning other countries.

If the British government hopes to salvage any credibility as an 'honest broker' in the Middle East, it must rein in the Foreign office strongly and immediately. 

Hadar Sela is an Anglo-Israeli writer and blogger living in Israel

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